2005-05-08

Our Exagmination Round His Factification For Incamination of Work in Progress

Before James Joyce's last novel Finnegans Wake was published in 1939, there was a collection of critical essays about it with the eccentric title of Our Exagmination round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress, the last three words being Joyce's working title for the book. Excerpts had been published and some people had seen parts of it in MS, but Joyce was still withholding the final title.

The lead essay, by Samuel Beckett, bore the equally eccentric, if quieter, title of "Dante ... Bruno. Vico .. Joyce". Each dot in the Beckett essay's title represents a century of real time: Dante in the 14th century, Bruno in the 17th, Vico in the 18th, and Joyce in the 20th. Of course, Beckett didn't explain all this: he left it up to us to figure out (much like Joyce himself): what Joyce called "the ideal reader with ideal insomnia". The period after "Bruno" is really just a single dot, but the publisher couldn't be expect to know that.

Joyce himself contributed an essay (at least we think so) under the name of Vladimir Dixon, entitled "A Litter to Mr. James Joyce" where he refers to him(self) as "my dear Mr. Germ's Choice" and "Shame's Voice". He was assuming the role of his own first hostile critic.

4 comments:

Jorn Barger said...

Vladimir Dixon was identified a few years ago in the JJ Quarterly, as a real Joycefan who wrote his own contribution.

John Cowan said...

Thanks, Jorn. Corrections are always good.

Sean B. Palmer said...

What about the G.V.L. Slingsby one?

Isabel said...

Scholars recently uncovered the real Vladimir Dixon, a Russian expatriate (of American extraction), who lived in Paris and died at age 30. He faded into obscurity, because he died young and because most of his verse was composed in Russian.


Let me direct you to the phrase in "A Litter" that ends "I am as they say in my neightive land 'out of the mind gone out' and unable to combprehen...." In Dixon's native land, Russia, the word sumashedshii translates, quite literally, to 'from the mind gone out' and means 'crazy.'

No, Joyce wasn't criticizing his own "Work in Progress." Rather, an accomplished mimic was cautioning Joyce in his own tripping tongue